RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – Gov. Roy Cooper issued vetoes Wednesday on three bills that he called a “triple threat of political culture wars” aimed at children, parents and the transgender community in North Carolina.
To the surprise of no one, Cooper put his veto stamp to House Bill 574, the ”Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” Senate Bill 49, the ”Parents’ Bill of Rights” and House Bill 808, the ”Gender Transition/Minors” act.
Each of those bills was passed by mostly party-line votes in the General Assembly after passionate debates about their effects on young people who are dealing with gender identity issues and how those issues are addressed by parents and discussed in schools.
“For campaign purposes only, Republicans are serving up a triple threat of political culture wars using government to invade the rights and responsibilities of parents and doctors, hurting vulnerable children and damaging our state’s reputation and economy like they did with the harmful bathroom bill,” Cooper said in a release about his vetoes. “Instead of scheming for the next election, Republicans should get to work investing in our public schools and teachers, lowering the cost of living and creating more stability for middle-class families.”
There was no immediate reaction from Republican leadership, but the likelihood that Cooper’s vetoes will stand is slim. His vetoes this session have been overridden some 10 times – including a record six times in one day – since Republicans cemented supermajority margins in both the Senate and House following the controversial shift in party by Rep. Tricia Cotham of Mecklenburg County.
The House in a brief session on Thursday scheduled veto override votes on the two House bills to be held on Wednesday afternoon, or possibly Thursday morning, after checking “attendance,” Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) said. An override requires a three-fifths vote of the members present for a vote. The Senate has scheduled a vote on SB 49 for Wednesday as well.
If either chamber overrides, the bill would move to the other chamber for concurrence. If both override the veto, the bill becomes law on the date specified in its text.
The House’s final vote for concurrence on HB 574 was 63-42 — with Rep. Mike Wray (D-Halifax) again siding with Republicans — to prohibit transgender athletes who were assigned male at birth from competing in women’s and girls’ sports in middle school through college. The bill does not prohibit transgender athletes from competing on men’s and boys’ teams and does not apply to intramural sports.
Democrats have said the bill unfairly singles out transgender athletes and is “cruel” to the LGBTQ community. They say there is only one high school athlete in North Carolina now participating – out of 16 who applied – after being approved by the NC High School Athletic Association.
Cooper in issuing his veto said the bill was indicative of politicians “making broad, uninformed decisions about an extremely small number of vulnerable children that are already handled by a robust system that relies on parents, schools and sports organizations. Republican governors in other states have vetoed similar bills because they hurt their states’ reputation and economy and because they are neither fair nor needed.”
Both SB 49 and HB 808 were approved in the same session after significant debate in which Democrats have suggested that one underscores parents’ rights and the other removes them.
SB 49 guarantees parents the right to be involved in their children’s education – reinforcing policies already in place – but prohibits the discussion of gender issues and sexuality in kindergarten through fourth grade.
HB 808 prohibits parents from helping transgender children younger than 18 getting the care that they might desire.
After denying amendments from Democrats, the House concurred on SB 49 by a 66-47 vote, with one Republican, Rep. Hugh Blackwell (R-Burke), voting with Democrats, and two Democrats and five Republicans absent.
Cooper in his comment Wednesday likened the bill to the controversial law adopted in Florida that has been called “Don’t Say Gay” and sparked a court battle between Gov. Ron DeSantis and Disney.
“Parents are the most essential educators for their children, and their involvement must be encouraged, but this bill will scare teachers into silence by injecting fear and uncertainty into classrooms,” Cooper said. “This ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill also hampers the important and sometimes lifesaving role of educators as trusted advisers when students have nowhere else to turn.
“The rights of parents are well established in state law, so instead of burdening schools with their political culture wars, legislators should help them with better teacher pay and more investments in students.”
Medical bill may face challenge
Blackwell, ironically, introduced the concurrence for HB 808, which bans children younger than 18 from having gender-transitional medical treatment that includes hormones and puberty blockers and allows medical personnel to withdraw from treatment because of “conscience.”
HB 808 has been criticized because it removes the rights of some parents to seek the medical treatment they may want their children to have, and this bill emerged on the same day that courts in two other states put a hold on similar bills, which likely would mean a court challenge in North Carolina, too.
A U.S. District Court judge for the Western District of Kentucky ruled the plaintiffs showed a strong likelihood of success on the merits of their challenge that a new state law violated transgender children’s constitutional rights to necessary medical care. And in Tennessee, another U.S. District Court issued an injunction to block the state’s prohibition of puberty blockers and hormone therapy for minors while permitting a ban on gender-reassignment surgeries.
Cooper, as he had when issuing a veto of Senate Bill 20, which tightened abortion rights, said that “a doctor’s office is no place for politicians, and North Carolina should continue to let parents and medical professionals make decisions about the best way to offer gender care for their children.
“Ordering doctors to stop following approved medical protocols sets a troubling precedent and is dangerous for vulnerable youth and their mental health,” he said. “The government should not make itself both the parent and the doctor.”